Epistemysics

Some theatre each day keeps the doctor away…

Debussy

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Saw Debussy with the Australian String Quartet tonight.  Rather good.  Just what I needed, though not enough of it, methinks.

I’ve talked – some time ago now – about my belief in a sort of ‘narrative determinism’.  That is, that, given the first few pages of a book, there is already an arc/style/fate/etc that one can recognise, although that is a bad way of describing it.  I think I used the term to try to explain why I thought I could tell whether I’d like a book or not from the first few sentences.  No doubt it’s more to do with personality in the prose style than hints of a narrative arc, but there’s still a bit of narrative determinism going on, methinks.

Anyway, I thought today that perhaps what a lot of thrillers have in common is that they have two levels of narrative determinism.  The first level is the story minus the twists – or minus the really big twists – and the second level is the level where the rules of the first level are broken.  My spur for this thought was The Hunger Games, where the reader can, according to the rules of the narrative world, expect only one contestant to survive – this is the first level.  The second level is when two contestants end up surviving, and break the rules of the first level in doing so.  One could argue that any thriller that didn’t have this second level would not be all that good nowadays.

So what do I really mean by narrative determinism?  I’ve no idea now.  I don’t think that today it means what I meant it to mean back when I coined the term (or, rather, merely ‘used’ the term).  Indeed, it seems closer today to meaning ‘being able to predict the plot’ – which I don’t want it to mean.  Rather, I want it to mean, ‘being able to predict the quality of a book’, or the ‘feel’ that one gets as to the ‘quality of the work’.  It’s the DNA of the whole in the cells of the first few sentences.

No, scrap what I said.  Let my narrative determinism mean what it meant before I wrote this post.

Because this second level is nothing more than me trying to come up with a new term for a deus ex machina, or its variations in modern storytelling, I guess.  Reversal of fortune, is it?

121/whatever.

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Written by epistemysics

September 17, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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